By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)-- Christian rights activists urge prayers for some 100 jailed Chinese Christians including a prominent evangelical pastor who condemned China's Communist "regime" for "forcing" its citizens to treat President Xi Jinping like a god.
Pastor Wang Yi along with his wife Jiang Rong and other members of his Early Rain Covenant Church were detained December 9 in Chengdu city in China's Sichuan Province. These detentions came after the pastor publicly questioned why Chinese people were ordered to "Ceasar worship" the president, a reference to the famed Roman Empire leader of Biblical times.
The pastor wrote in a manifesto that the ideology "is morally incompatible with the Christian faith and all those who uphold freedom of the mind
and thought." Last year, China approved the removal of the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively allowing Xi Jinping to remain in power for life.
Pastor Wang also condemned China's Communist Party and urged Christians to perform acts of civil disobedience, prompting police to raid and ransack his home during the December crackdown reportedly.
Apparently foreseeing his detention, Pastor Wang wrote a separate open letter titled 'My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience' in September. He instructed his congregation to publish its contends should he be detained for more than 48 hours, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
In the letter, Pastor Wang warns authorities that he won't renounce his faith in Jesus Christ who he views as his real leader and King of kings. "Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life, and no one can raise me from the dead," Pastor Wang wrote.
"Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever," he added. "I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws."
He urged China's "respectable officers" to "stop committing evil" and avoid the judgment of Christ. "I plead earnestly with you to stay your hands, for why should you be willing to pay the price of eternal damnation in hell for the sake of a lowly sinner such as I?"
Amid the tensions, authorities reportedly confirmed that the pastor and the other church members were held on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.” Pastor Wang Yi has since denied that he sought to overthrow the government but demanded the right to worship freely.
Barnabas Fund, an influential charity supporting "persecuted Christians," urged Christians to pray in public and private intercession for the jailed believers and to tell God. "Praise the Lord Jesus Christ, for the faith and boldness of Pastor Wang Yi and his willingness to suffer for Your Name." The prayer, obtained by BosNewsLife, also requests God's "Holy Spirit to strengthen him, his wife Jiang Rong, and all the members of his church, moment by moment, as they endure their time in prison."
Barnabas Fund said it is essential to pray for God's peace that the "world cannot" give. "Please use Pastor Wang Yi during his time in prison to be a wonderful witness for You to other prisoners and to the guards. We ask, too, that all those detained will be released in Your perfect timing," the prayer adds.
"We also pray that the living God will touch the hearts of the Chinese authorities, causing them to realize that Christians bring harmony, compassion, and love to society. Lead them to respond positively to Pastor Wang’s letter appealing for freedom of religion in China, Barnabas Fund explained in the published prayer. "We ask this in the Name of Christ, Amen."
Wang Yi is seen as a prominent pastor in China as he was listed as one of the "50 most influential public intellectuals of China" by Southern People Weekly. He reportedly met with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House in 2006 to discuss religious freedom in China. The pastor returned to Washington in 2008 to attend the Conference for Global Christians in Law where he was awarded "Prize for the Contribution to Promoting Religious Freedom."
His and other detentions of Christians come amid ongoing concerns within China's Communist Party about the growing number of devoted Christians in the Communist-run nation of nearly 1.4 billion people as they see them as a threat to their power base. Some Communist officials have suggested there may be at least 130-million Christians in China. But the government cites lower figures.